There are several different types of heirloom dresses. Christening gowns as well as special handmade outfits for holidays such as Easter are popular kinds of heirloom dresses. While most heirloom dress styles are for children, this type of sewing for adult women includes heavily embellished handmade special occasion dresses, such as those worn to church functions, weddings and other celebrations. Some embroidered and smocked adult heirloom dresses are made from lightweight white fabric so the garments can be worn during warmer months.
The skirt of a handmade heirloom summer dress for a woman is often lavishly embroidered from the bottom hem about halfway to the waist, or even higher. The top section is likely to be sleeveless and feature the gathered lines of stitching known as smocking. Smocking adds a detailed texture as well as shaping to the bodice of a heirloom dress. Children's handmade heirloom dresses often feature a smocked bodice as well as a gathered, full skirt. Embroidered details such as flowers or animal motifs are often added to the waistband, neckline and/or skirt's center.
Whereas children's heirloom flower girl dresses for weddings may be made in many different pastel or jewel-toned colors, one designed for the Catholic ceremony of Communion is in white. White Communion heirloom dresses may be long or short, with many layers or more simple in shape. Traditional Communion dresses have long sleeves, but some modern styles may be sleeveless if the church permits it. A child's heirloom dress for a pageant or a music recital is often very different from Communion dresses.
Pageant heirloom dresses usually have a lot of beads, sequins or jewels. They may be sleeveless or feature full sleeves, depending on the event and season. Children's pageant dresses are made in a variety of colors, as are those for women.
Women's pageant dresses are typically long gowns. They may be simple in shape, yet feature extravagant beaded or sequined patterns that really make the garments stand out. If the fabric is plain, then the details of a women's pageant dress are usually very pronounced. Ruffled edges, gathered sweeps and dramatic draping are common pageant design details for women's dresses.
All types of heirloom dresses are made with fine quality fabrics such as satin, silk and organza. A winter weight heirloom dress may be created in velvet or wool, while a summer one tends to be made from cotton or silk. An heirloom dress of any type should be carefully stored in an acid-free storage box.